I never expected to become the adventurous traveler I am today. My comfort zone has done a complete 180 over recent years, and I have the unbeaten path to thank for it.

Growing up in Vancouver, I was extremely fortunate to enjoy many warm weather vacations with my family during the wintertime. Hawaii and Mexico were our go-tos. After university, I caught the Euro bug and the next thing I knew, my apartment was overflowing with Paris-themed décor. We’re talking not one but two soap dispensers shaped like the Eiffel Tower, an Eiffel Tower cheese grater, the works. My birthdays would bring on a new influx of similar items and eventually my abode became a bit of a Parisian overload. (Following my Peru trip, those Eiffel Towers have now turned into llamas, but that’s on me).

I loved my beautiful beaches and Parisian terraces, but I never had a desire to get too far off the beaten path. Unlike every one of my early-twenties friends, I didn’t even have a desire to visit the backpacking hotspot of Southeast Asia. Full moon parties, buckets, yada yada — I’d seen the pictures, I didn’t need to bolster the cliché. Plus, 10-bed hostels dorms, long overnight bus rides, cockroaches… these things were not for me. But I would gladly take another piña colada, please, señor.

The girl from Ipanema. Author in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The girl from Ipanema. Author in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A caipirinha-flavored taste of adventure

My journey outside of my comfort zone started to unfold when my close friend and university roommate made the 2016 Olympics. It was a no-brainer that my friends and I were going to go cheer her on — which meant we were bound for Brazil. Rio de Janeiro, here I come!

With the media being filled with Zika virus and gunpoint muggings (just ask Ryan Lochte), Rio seemed a little daunting to a tame traveler like me. Although I couldn’t wait to cheer on Team Canada, I was less excited about the destination itself.

Then Rio completely captured my heart.

The city itself is breathtaking. Mountainous peaks emerge throughout the lush landscape, as colorful favelas flank their bases. The picturesque crescents of Copacabana and Ipanema are caressed by the surf as activities sizzle on the shore. Street art and trees frame the mosaic-tiled sidewalks, and you can’t help but samba your way down the street. The acai is fresh and the caipirinhas are strong. I was sold. Zika, who?

We stayed in a couple of sketchy hostels, almost missed our 5:00 am bus, and faced some major language barriers. You know, all that fun stuff that comes with real, raw, authentic traveling. This wasn’t the usual vacation stuff. My experience was different than any I had ever had before and I absolutely loved it.

After my trip to Rio, the world was beckoning me with open arms, much like the Christ the Redeemer himself. No adventure was off-limits and I was ready to experience the world.

Author at Twin Lakes, Bali
Author at Twin Lakes, Bali

Chasing peace, play, and passion

For my next travels, I took it up a notch and set off on a six-month solo adventure around the world. I named my trip “Peace Play Passion” — yes, I may have watched Eat Pray Love prior to booking. My “Peace” leg was in Rwanda, “Play” was in Southeast Asia and Australia, and “Passion” was in Paris.

If Rio opened my eyes up to traveling, peace play passion captured my soul. Travel is now a driving force in my life.

It wasn’t easy to leave behind my family, job, and apartment that I loved for six months. I lived a comfortable life and I loved it. But if there’s one thing that traveling has taught me, it’s that there is more to life than being comfortable.

I’ve traveled solo across six continents. I’ve trekked with mountain gorillas, endured the loudest snoring known to mankind in hostel beds, trudged through leech-filled rainforests at night, scuba dived with manta rays, woke up with a cockroach on my face, and tented through east Africa. I’ve made new friends and memories that I never would have found had I stayed as my comfortable self, and I feel that being away has only brought me closer to my loved ones back home.

Author in Kenya's Hell's Gate Gorge
Author in Kenya’s Hell’s Gate Gorge

Go somewhere new

Everyone has a different travel style, and some prefer to stay close to home. Whether you’re into all-inclusive vacations, backyard explorations, luxury holidays, or trekking through uncharted territory, any escape from the ordinary will bring on a valuable experience.

Getting out of your comfort zone to try somewhere new will introduce new sights, thoughts, and experiences to open up your world and liberate your soul. You’ll never know where your comfort zone ends until you peek outside of it, and you might just have the time of your life while doing it.

Author pictured in Havana, Cuba.
Author pictured in Havana, Cuba. (Cover Photo)

Travel with an open heart, mind, and soul

I never believed in the universe until I began to really embrace travel. I am an advocate for making the most out of every single experience when I travel, good or bad, and I swear the universe has caught onto my good vibes and gives them right back.

When I travel now, I set an intention for what I want out of my trip — for example, finding some peace, play, or passion — and leave the rest up to the universe. Being open to whatever the universe has in store, I have come across the most incredible people and experiences that have changed me in the best ways possible.

Author with guide in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Author with guide in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Say “no” to nothing

When I travel, I am a yes-girl — minding basic safety rules, of course. If a stranger tries to lure me into a dark alley at night, I’ll definitely say no to that.

But if it’s within my comfort zone or just outside of it, my mantra is to say yes and see what happens. Try out scuba diving, zip-lining, meeting new friends from new places. Say yes to adventure, and you never know what you will come across. If I had said no to that intimidating trip to Rio de Janeiro, I may still be sipping a watered-down mojito on an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.

Instead, I’m getting ready to climb volcanoes, salsa dance, and chase the unknown across Central America. Adios, amigos!